Hard Answers to Questions About Optimizing Image-Only Web Sites

Mar 23, 2006 • 5:49 pm | comments (5) by twitter | Filed Under SEO - Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization deals mostly with improving on-page content in order to "show" search engines that you are worthy of having your page ranked for a particular keyword. In my opinion, content is still the number one priority when seeking search rankings, no matter how important linking initiatives are becoming. One issue that comes up more and more often as people are discovering SEO is the optimization of image-intensive web pages. A recent site that we began working with has lots of great content, but unfortunately it is entirely inside images, which a search engine spider cannot "read." We recommended a complete redesign.

A member of High Rankings Forum posted the other day about a website that is not only in all-images, but also in frames. The member posts four potential solutions they have come up with, and asks for advice. These ideas include using alt attributes, Meta Description tags including all the content, adding content below the images (the method we are going to try for the above-referenced client), and simply adding more pages with "real" content.

The frames topic aside (also a big no-no for search friendliness), the image issue will be a tough one to tackle, based on the early concensus. The hard answers are hinted at by some, but as usual Jill Whalen gets straight to the point by saying

the only solution is a complete site redesign
Perhaps this person was looking for easy answers to this subject, but unfortunately there only exist hard answers such as Jill's. In my opinion, if you want to really succeed in getting a site ranked in search engines for competitive phrases, you have to present content separate from images.

Jump in and give your opinion at High Rankings Forums.

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Search Engines Web

03/24/2006 12:36 am

Sometimes images and Flash are used for Aesthetic Reasons - in some industries, prospects place credibility or allure of the services or products being offered, by the "Visual Appeal" of the Websites - for some, the homepage will entice or bore a potential buyer. Photoshop Test and flash animations are more important for some,.... and newbies not having had a chance to establish a link network - are in the worst overall competative state. <b>Their ONLY hope is directories. </b> In the days of Yahoo's & Looksmart supremecy (and to a smaller degree, DMOZ)- that would have been enough - but Now Google Yahoo and MSN demand rankings on Organic SERPs. <b>Until then, the only route is Sponsor links.</b>

Michael Martinez

03/24/2006 06:55 am

Well, I disagree. Frames are not search engine unfriendly (although bad frame design can be). And image-only sites can still get indexed through indirect (off-page) content. The usability and user-friendly can call-to-action issues are in a whole different arena.


03/24/2006 02:02 pm

I almost went back and edited the post originally, Michael, in order to add something to the effect of "there are risky methods of gaining results." Of course there are ways around image-only sites, but why resort to that when you would probably be better off with a redesign? Frames very rarely allow for an aesthetically pleasing site by today’s standards, in my opinion, and still pose additional work for search. Once again, why not build a site that is SEO-scalable? I have to agree that there are alternatives, some decent, but I stand by my assertion that redesign is in most cases the best option.

Chris Smith

03/24/2006 10:15 pm

Actually, I think that your comment that "to really succeed in getting a site ranked in search engines for competitive phrases, you have to present content separate from images" is no longer accurate in contemporary optimization. Images themselves are increasingly becoming one valuable source for keyword search referral traffic. Forgive me for blowing my own horn a bit, but I just wrote an article about this very subject a couple of days ago at: http://www.naturalsearchblog.com/archives/2006/03/22/need-more-traffic-try-image-search-optimization/ Of course, you're right in the sense that a site that was purely image-only in content is likely not very good for a whole host of usability and spidering reasons -- it's just that there's been a perspective in SEOs that image content itself is not very valuable for optimization purposes, and there's sufficient evidence otherwise.

Chris Boggs

03/25/2006 12:42 am

Chris thanks for the link, but we are talking apples and oranges here. You are speaking of optimizing for Image search, which is used by what, about 1-2% of searchers? (purely a guess...could be more I guess) We are talking about optimizing for "regular" search. Interesting article, though, and a valid point about the potential boost in traffic from well-optimized images. However, I really doubt the boost could compare to that achieved through "regular" rankings.

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